Mano James Tamati
Sentenced to 10 years with a 6 year minimum non-parole period in May 2005
Released at sentence end date November 2014
From NZ Herald story 27th May 2005
Three unemployed Rotorua men, variously deported from Australia after serving lengthy prison spells for violent crimes there, were sentenced yesterday to jail time for the Bentley home invasion last Labour Weekend and an earlier burglary of the same property. The public gallery was packed when the men appeared before Judge Phillip Cooper to find out their fate. Peter and Maggie Bentley, in an unusual and emotional move, read out their own victim-impact reports before the main offenders, Mano James Tamati, 30, and Hopihana Epiha, 40, were sentenced.
Allowing, as required by law, a reduction for their guilty pleas, Judge Cooper gave both men nine years instead of 12 for aggravated robbery and wounding Mr Bentley with intent to cause grievous bodily harm on October 23. Tamati got a further year's imprisonment for breaking and entering the Bentleys' home a few weeks before the brutal attack. Both men were sentenced to a minimum non-parole period of six years. Judge Cooper said the pair, with others, decided to target Mr Bentley, a businessman, for robbery.
Tamati and another offender went to the Bentleys' rural home near Te Puke on the Friday night of August 4 last year, having heard from an associate that Mr Bentley paid his staff in cash on Saturdays. They had a look around and decided to return the next morning. There was no one home and the men smashed their way into the house and stole property worth $12,000, more than half of which has not been recovered. About 5am on October 23, Tamati and Epiha went back to the Bentleys' house to rob again, armed with a loaded sawn-off .22 rifle, a knife, and a crowbar Tamati took from a toolshed on the property.
Judge Cooper said that in the violence that followed, while Maggie Bentley escaped into the bushes and dialled 111, Mr Bentley was "quite justified in seeking to arm and defend himself and his wife". The beating Tamati gave when Mr Bentley managed to get a firearm out of his cabinet was "way beyond what was appropriate" for Tamati to simply disarm him, the judge said. Mr Bentley's shotgun still had the safety catch on and when he managed to fire a warning shot, it hit a wine rack. Judge Cooper said the physical and emotional harm suffered by the Bentleys and their nephew - also in the house and threatened at gunpoint by Epiha - "cannot be overstated".
The victims were placed in a terrifying situation and believed they were going to be killed. "And there was every justification for that belief," said the judge. Both Epiha and Tamati had serious histories of violence, including aggravated robbery and wounding. Judge Cooper said there was no pre-sentencing report for Tamati. The prisoner had declined to talk to a probation officer because the staffer had approached him only two days before and Tamati did not believe this was enough time for a proper report to be prepared.
The judge, though also concerned at the short notice, said he was not prepared to delay sentencing. Ronald Hira, 28, who appeared separately, also had an extensive list of previous convictions in Australia, including aggravated robbery, said the judge. He was deported back to NZ in 2003. It was fortunate for Hira that he had chosen not to involve himself in the second, aggravated robbery on the Bentleys' home, the judge said. Simon Lance, appearing for Tamati, said his client had written to the Bentleys apologising for his "reckless" actions. He did not expect forgiveness for the trauma he had caused and wished he "could turn back time".
Epiha's lawyer, Peter Birks, described him as "an old-style crim" who accepted responsibility for his actions and did not seek to blame others. He had pleaded guilty in January, was remorseful and apologised to the Bentley whanau. His family had turned out to support him and a kaumatua addressed the court at length in Maori. At his appearance, Hira also apologised through his lawyer, Andrew Schultz, who said his client was drawn into the first Bentley burglary through his criminal association with Tamati. He told a probation officer he was "sick of a life of crime". Hira was given two years and four months' jail for burglary.
This TV One News story details the sentencing and also gave the victims further opportunity to speak on the accompanying video clip
From Sunday Star Times article April 24th 2005 in condensed form here
Tamati and Hopihana Epiha, 40, who pleaded guilty to the attack in January, were deported to New Zealand from Australia after serving time in jail there. Police said they knew these criminals were in the region, but they could do nothing to stop them re-offending. Australian and New Zealand police would not give details of the pair's Australian convictions for privacy reasons.
But sources said Tamati was a member of a gang in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta and served time for numerous convictions, including robbery, assault and theft. Australian Immigration department figures show 120 criminals have been deported from Australia to New Zealand in the past five years, and police say they are powerless to stop them re-offending here.
Although police share information on deportees through Interpol, Australia will not release criminal records on those sent back.
Peter and Maggie Bentley were appalled that known criminals were sent back to New Zealand and released into society while police were powerless to monitor them. They said the system urgently needed to change. "(Police) know these guys come in but there are no checks and balances," Maggie Bentley said.
"There's no parole, there's nothing they can do to keep an eye on them. It makes me angry. The poor policeman out there on the beat is getting no back-up." The Sensible Sentencing Trust wants an Australian and New Zealand treaty to allow better sharing of information about offenders.
There has got to be a line that you cross that you lose some of your rights, and that must mean the privacy rights. These offenders who continue to re-offend are just giving the fingers to the system and laughing all the way.
Date of Birth
Home invasion, aggravated robbery and grievous attack of Te Puke couple Maggie and Peter Bentley in October 2004
Numerous other convictions in Australia mostly for robbery, assault and theft
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OFFENCES / CONVICTIONS
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